In 2004, I went to Florida for two months. That was after my second divorce and I thought I might want to live in Florida. During the two months, I came to realize that 1) I wasn’t a geezer like everyone there (I was 51) and 2) I missed my friends and family a lot more than I thought I would.
I have always been very independent, but it’s one thing to be independent, it’s another to be over a thousand miles away from everyone and everything you have ever known.
I was looking into buying properties and fixing them up and reselling them. I was fully capable of doing that and had plenty of experience in construction from a younger age. The idea was to capitalize on the aging baby boom generation (of which I was one) to develop properties before they all decided to move to Florida and retire.
However, by the time I was there in 2004, speculation about this had already run wild. Prices of properties had been rising 20% for several years. Of course, as everyone knows, this was the leading edge of the housing bubble that hit Florida, Arizona, Nevada, California as well as other isolated parts of the US. The bubble peaked in 2008 and then the housing market crashed. By 2004, I felt I was too late to the party already. Maybe there could have been a couple more years where good money could have been made, but at the time, it felt like a bubble because it was a bubble.
The bottom line, though, is that I decided to move back to Overland Park, Kansas because I simply missed everyone and everything.
I have a couple interesting stories about my two months in Florida. When I drove down there (which I did twice), I did it about as non-stop as anyone could. It took me less than 19 hours to go from Overland Park (Kansas City) to Port Charlotte (south of Tampa). That’s 1,100 miles as a crow flies and about 1,370 via roads. If you divide 1,370 miles by 18.3 hours, you get 72.1 mph average.
I was on interstate the big majority of the time and I would go 79 in a 75. I only stopped twice for gas – once in Paducah, Kentucky and once in Atlanta, Georgia. I drank as little fluids as possible, but that didn’t mean I didn’t have to do a #1 a couple times between the two gas stops. But, did I stop the car? Warning: Not for the faint of heart… let’s just say I worked out a system whereby I could still go the speed I wanted to and yet take care of the problem. You can use your imagination.
Of course, 99.9999% of the people would just stop the friggin’ car and do what had to be done. But, I’m definitely among the .0001% that simply couldn’t stand to lose a few minutes.
There was one other story – the ramifications of which remain with me as a feeling of violation. I can’t identify with a woman who is raped or a child that is beaten or a man who is falsely imprisoned. I’m an extremely unemotional person and so feeling violated in any sense – and especially when it stays with me – gives me only a tiny idea of what other people must feel. So, I don't mean to put it on that level, but for me... it was the most violated I ever felt.
I’m ridiculously cheap, so I found the cheapest possible moving company to take my things to Florida in 2004. The company was based out of Houston. I didn’t think there was any reason to be concerned. I watched them load the truck. I was leaving the next day and we agreed we would meet in Port Charlotte in a couple days.
Days turned into more days and more days into weeks. I was freaking out. I was constantly on the phone with them and it was one excuse after another. Finally, when they didn’t show up for the fourth time they promised, I got in my car and headed back toward Kansas City. When I was nearing the junction of I-75 and I-10 in north Florida, I called the guy I had been working with. He was in Houston. I told him I was either going to continue north on I-75 or I was going to turn west on I-10 and that once I turned onto I-10, I wasn’t going to stop until I had reached Houston and had his neck in my hands.
He asked for 10 minutes and quickly got back to me and said my stuff was in Kansas City in a storage unit. WHAT THE CRAP!?!?!?
He gave me the name of the storage facility and promised to have a truck there to load it up and take it to Florida within a couple days.
I went back to KC, spent the night and went to the storage facility the next day. They weren’t sure what locker my stuff was in as they said they had several listed to that company. They wouldn’t open them up for me to look since I wasn't with the company.
Here is the BIG problem. In 1998, I bought $30,000 of gold coins (1/10 ounce) and silver (pre 1965 bags of coins) in preparation for Y2K. At the time gold was about $300/ounce and silver was about $4/ounce. Y2k was a bust, but gold eventually got to $1,700/ounce (+466%) and silver eventually got to $44/ounce (+1,000%). However, in 2004, the price hadn’t gone up that much. Even so, the gold and silver were important assets and the reason for owning them – which I discuss on this site – were even more critical.
The next day, these bozos showed up. They didn’t know which locker my stuff was in. We went to three of the four lockers and my possessions weren’t in any of them. I was now scared to death that they had lost them. They opened the fourth locker and bam… there they were – weeks after I loaded it on a truck about 20 miles away. I was so irate, you can’t imagine, but also greatly relieved.
By now, I wondered if my safe was in the locker. I had put a big box around it and then had it loaded. They shouldn’t have known what it was except that they should have been in Port Charlotte weeks before, so "should" that didn’t mean anything.
I dug through all the stuff while they were loading it up on the truck. We were almost to the end of the boxes when I saw the box. I opened the safe, took everything out of it and put it in my car. They loaded up everything else. I then drove to Florida. A day later, they showed up with my possessions.
I still can’t look at a moving truck or a U-Haul without experiencing the same feeling I had in 2004 during that time. And, as I say, my “violation” was insignificant compared to what many others experience.
That wasn't the only bullet I dodged. When I decided to move back to Kansas in August, it couldn't have been more timely. It took a few days to get everything organized to leave. Had I waited just an extra day, I would have been in big trouble. I left Port Charlotte, Florida on August 12th. On August 13th, Hurricane Charley struck the area. When I was preparing to leave, I had no idea Charley was going to hit.
Charley wasn't a big hurricane, but it was incredibly powerful. Almost a category 5 storm, it hit Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte directly and was the most powerful hurricane in the US since 1960 and the second costliest hurricane in US history at the time (second to Andrew).
Charley did damage to the house I was staying in and destroyed many of the homes in the area where I lived.
COOL FACTOID: After Charley hit, Florida was pounded by three more hurricanes - Frances, Ivan and Jeanne within six weeks - the most hurricanes to hit the same area in a single season.